Category Archives: religion

The Louder You Sound, the Better

A recent study by the University of Washington has confirmed what most rational people suspected for long: a measured rhetoric and a credible argument are no match for a boisterous remark. If you want to convince people, you just need to yell more than your adversary while looking more confident and free of doubt. This explains, among other things, why a seemingly endless stream of lunatics has managed to get millions of followers throughout the ages: if you’re crazy enough, you’ll be able to give your sweeping statements the fervor, passion and conviction only nutjobs are capable of.

The authors used twitter for their research. They originally intended to track economics pundits, but realized economic predictions had no deadlines and thus were hard to track. Instead, they used sports: they followed a number of different sports pundits and looked at the nature of their predictions, how confident they sounded (by looking at the kind of words they used) and the accuracy of their predictions.

Here’s the shocking result: predicting the outcome of every single game in the playoffs right will get you, on average, 3% more followers. Being loud and boisterous will get you 20%. So there. Stop bothering with the arguments and yell.

Sonic Super Villain

Sonic Super Villain (Photo credit: samlavi)

(Another interesting side not is that both aficionados and professionals scored lower than pure, dumb chance in their predictions. That is: if you want to know the result of the next match, it’s better to listen to a die.)

This research has finally given the motivation I needed to change the tone of this blog. From now on, I will CAPITALIZE WHAT I BELIEVE and end every post with a HELL YEAH! If people disagree with me I’ll tell them to SHUT THEIR PIE-HOLE because THEY DON’T KNOW SHIT. When I popularize science, I will make sure to say OUR THEORIES ARE RIGHT AND EVERYTHING ELSE IS BULLSHIT and, when I touch on politics, I’ll show my contempt for those LIBERAL PIECES OF CRAP.

Oh, and let me tell you, IF YOU DON’T THINK THIS IS A GOOD IDEA THEN SCREW YOU BECAUSE WHAT THE HECK DO YOU KNOW, YOU THINK YOU’RE BETTER THAN ME?

Maybe I’ll add some grammar mistakes too, for good measure.

It shows passion.

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Don’t Think about Sex

We live in an age that’s obsessed about sex. We sell things with sex, we talk about it incessantly and it’s present in almost every movie. Porn is readily available on-line and anyone with an Internet connection and a bit of curiosity has seen a fair share of it.

So why does this happen? Why weren’t we so obsessed before? How have we turned into this debauc

hed society?

Or have we?

As I was reading “The Antidote”, a pretty fun book on negative thinking, I came across a sentence about sex: the more you try not to think about it, the more aroused you become. This happens for the same reason that someone forbidding you to laugh makes things even more hilarious; if I tell you “don’t think of a polar bear” you will instantly, well, do what you just did. Could our current obsession with sex be related to that?

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sex and Christianity

So I started wondering about what the Christian obsession with vilifying sex has done to us. By telling us that even thinking about it is sinful, Christianity has spurred precisely what it was trying to avoid. Of course, the more you think about it, the guiltier you feel and the harder you try, thus making you think more about it. (It is also possible this was a clever marketing trick: force people into sinning and watch them come to church in spades).

Then I thought about how Catholic priests must be doing in that area and I understood a lot of stuff.

So we could see this craze about sex as being created precisely because of the taboo about sex that has been the norm in society for the last century.

English: US Secretary Gutierrez meets with Chi...

Chinese Minister Bo Xilai (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sex and China

However, I think that blaming Christianity for this is a little unfair. I live in China, were Christianity has a testimonial presence, and the taboo about sex is as great as in the West. Not surprisingly, the debauchery happening behind the scenes is pretty shocking too. Every month we see as scandal involving some government official and a bunch of young ladies. Most actresses in the country are known to have reached fame through borderline prostitution. In fact, some of them do prostitution: a couple of famous actresses are actually known to charge one million dollars per session. Bo Xilai, recently convicted for corruption, was one of the customers. The minister of transportation slept with the whole cast of the TV show “Dream of a red mansion”; after that, all of these actresses went on to have extremely successful careers. The minister himself ended up in jail for corruption, being responsible for the high-speed train crash that killed hundreds of people some years ago.

I don’t know if the same is true for Japan, but if it was it would explain a lot.

Buddhism

Buddhism (Photo credit: shapour bahrami)

Sex and Buddhism

One of the things that shocked me when visiting monasteries in Thailand was that women were not allowed to wear “provocative” clothes, with the argument that they would be distracting to the monks. I don’t know about you, but I have done maybe 100 hours of meditation in my whole life and I have no problem not getting distracted by a woman in a tank-top. You’d think that those monks, who supposedly are way closer to enlightenment, would have even less trouble not caring. Even if they did, couldn’t they make their arousal the subject of their meditation, just like they make pain? I suspect this idea that women shouldn’t mix with men in temples or that provocative clothes shouldn’t be worn around monks are based on ancient prejudices, rather than in logic. Crap, if you’re in such control of your emotions you don’t even fear death, a woman wearing a short skirt hardly seems like a challenge.

This image shows the coding region in a segmen...

This image shows the coding region in a segment of eukaryotic DNA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sex and Genetics

I know many people who haven’t been raised as Catholics, but they too seem to be obsessed about sex (though this obsession does seem to wane with age). Could it be that it’s just the way we’re programmed? After all, sex is the one thing our genes need us to do. The obsession, then, is thoroughly justified and will happen whatever you do. Of course, if you try not to think about it, the whole thing may get even worse.

What to Do, What to Do?

So what’s the healthy attitude towards sex? How should we approach it? Should we think about it all the time? Not think about it? Think about it but not attach to the thought? Write about it in our blog?

Fucked if I now.

(This post was inspired by livelysceptic’s recent series on sex).

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Prophecies for the 21st Century

Yesterday I had a revelation. As I was dining spaghetti with my fine wife, one of them got stuck in my throat. I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was going to die.

And then it happened: a miracle.

His Noodly Majesty Himself came down from the skies and pulled the spaghetti from my already unconscious body. I gasped for breath and thanked him with every fiber of my soul. And then He talked to me and said: “Be fruitful and multiply. Especially 12 x 9.”

Before He left, He granted me Wisdom. He let me see the past and the future: what was and what will be. And to His Truth I shall bear witness.

Navidad Pastafari

Navidad Pastafari (Photo credit: zentolos)

Here’s my list of prophecies for the 21st century. They shall come to pass.

  1. Physicists will finally discover the Theory of Everything. It will predict absolutely everything except for stuff that’s actually useful for this universe. There will be great debate among physicists on whether it is “real science,” “great science” or “a great way to pass the time while we wait for funding.”

    The resemblance is uncanny

    The resemblance is uncanny

  2. Kimg Jong-Un will die a ridiculous death and people will make fun of him even more than now. Which is hard.
  3. The world will see an unprecedented increase in wealth that will be almost exclusively owned by 0.1 % of the population. The rest will be pretty pissed.
  4. There will be substantial progress in philosophy. Great arguments will be put forward proving the existence of free will without a doubt. Other equally good arguments will be put forward against it. The same will happen to the theories of mind, causation and the possibility of Artificial Intelligence. A complete agreement between any two philosophers will not come until the end of the 23rd century.
  5. The Nobel prize in Chemistry will be awarded to the first chemist to admit that chemistry is just applied physics.

    God the Father 11

    ET… Ouch… (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

  6. God will finally show Himself and reveal that he actually did create humans in His image, except for creationists who, in His own words, “were a freak accident.”
  7. The US will have a new president that will promise all kinds of cool stuff and then do nothing about it.
  8. There will be a huge debate on the legality of private ownership of siege tanks. The NRA will argue that owning siege tanks should be legal and that what we need are siege tanks in every school, to protect the children from bad guys in other siege tanks. The debate on home-owned nuclear weapons will happen 50 years later.
  9. Everybody and his brother will have a drone. They will be used mostly to spy on your significant other and to take dirty pictures of people in the shower.

    gay pride, roma june 7, 2008.

    gay pride, roma june 7, 2008. (Photo credit: l3m4ns)

  10. Gay marriage will finally be accepted by the Vatican after the Pope comes out of the closet. Some bishops will suggest adapting the image of Christianity accordingly, but will finally come to the conclusion that a lot of their symbolism is “pretty gay already.”
  11. A super-human intelligence will be finally created. It will always be very depressed while complaining that nobody understands it.
  12. Public health coverage will include faith healing, crystal therapy and homeopathy. In the words of a high government representative, “it’s cheaper than an MRI and the poor bastards can’t tell the difference.”

Have you also been touched by his Noodly Appendage? What has He revealed to you?

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Some Buddhist Humor

I talk about Buddhism often and many of my readers are familiar with it. That’s why I thought they will probably enjoy this much more than the average person. Anyway, here’s a list of jokes about Buddhism that I hope will make you smile:

  1. What did the Buddhist say to the pizza chef?
    Make me one with everything.
    (The pizza chef prepares it and gives it to the monk. The monk pays him and asks for the change. The hot dog vendor says: “Change comes from within”.)
  2. How many Zen Buddhists does it take to change a light bulb?
    Three – one to change it, one to not-change it and one to both change-and not-change it.
  3. How many Zen Buddhists does it take to change a light bulb?
    None, they are the light bulb.
  4. How many Zen masters does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    A tree in a golden forest.
  5. Wherever you go, there you are.
    Your luggage is another story.
  6. Breathe in. Breathe out.
    Breathe in. Breathe out.
    Forget this and attaining Enlightenment will be the least of your problems.
  7. Q: How much “ego” do you need?
    A: Just enough so that you don’t step in front of a bus.
    ~ Shunryu Suzuki
  8. If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?
  9. Why can’t a Buddhist vacuum under the sofa?
    Because he has no attachments.
  10. “A Zen master once said to me, ‘Do the opposite of whatever I tell you.’ So I didn’t.

And here are some images:

zen bday 3710957239_77543c1ba5 tumblr_m8nek8pi8X1rc2oeao1_250 buddhist_compliment_321115

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Proof That There Is a God and a Heaven

This post is part of a series called the Anti-Week. If you don’t know what it’s about, please read this before you continue!

So here’s where I argue there’s a God. Now, because I’m a rationalist and a believer in science, I will argue from there. That is, I will try to find a rational, scientific proof of the existence of God.

Before we begin, I must point out that my “God” will not be an exact copy of the Christian God. In fact, I believe the Christian God has some consistency problems that must be addressed before we can go on.

The first, most pressing problem is that omnipotence (being almighty) is self-contradictory. There are many ways to show why: for example, God can’t make a stone He can’t move. He cannot make 2 + 2 equal 5, not without changing the axioms for the natural numbers. And so on. A viable God, then, should not be omnipotent, but “quite powerful.” The idea is that He should be maximally powerful, that is, have the maximal amount of power possible without contradiction.

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

2 + 2 equals… come one… you can do this… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second problem is omniscience. This is a little more subtle. It turns out that a being that is omniscient has all possible information. Because of this, He cannot have more (or He wouldn’t have been omniscient in the first place) or less (or He would stop being omniscient.) This means that an omniscient being has only one possible mental state, which in turn implies it cannot have any mental process. No mental process, of course, implies no consciousness, no decision making and so on. In fact, an omniscient being will know the consequences of every action beforehand and will have no reason to act anyway.

In order to solve the omniscience problem, I will postulate a God that tends towards omniscience (mathematicians would say “asymptotically”) but never really gets there.

The third problem is the ability to perform miracles, which is also self-contradictory. The idea of a miracle is that God is able to “put the laws of nature on hold” somehow. He obviously does that some way, using some method. The fact that he uses some method implies there are some underlying super-laws, which He can’t break. One could say that God can also break those super-laws but then we’d have some super-super-laws and so on. So the miracles of the God I’ll argue for happen within the laws of physics and are akin to technology. That is, they look like miracles to us, but they’re not.

Now we can get started. I will first use an approach based on technology, but this is just the scaffolding, which we will later be able to shed without a thought.

Ziltoid the Omniscient

Ziltoid the Omniscient (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One aspect of technology has been endlessly emphasized by the media: the fact that its progress is exponential. Humans are not good at exponential thinking and thus are repeatedly baffled by technological progress, which systematically goes beyond their expectations. Only recently (in the last 30 years) people have started to apply this exponential reasoning to predict the future, leading to a wide range of accurate forecasts.

People who say we will never reach super-human intelligence do not realize we already have. The intelligence of an isolated human being is much lower than that of a human being with a pencil and a piece of paper: those serve as visualization and memorization aids that improve overall cognitive function. Similarly, a human with a computer is vastly more intelligent than a human without one, since a human with a computer has an extended memory and the possibility to perform millions of operations that are impossible for an isolated brain.

Intelligence of a system improves vastly with the efficiency of the connection between its parts. Two super-fast processors linked by a low-bandwidth line are less effective than those same processors linked by a high-bandwidth connection. The same happens for human civilization: more bandwidth (the ability to exchange text, pictures, videos and eventually thoughts) means an increase of overall intelligence, where here “intelligence” refers to the whole system, not to isolated humans.

This trend will continue because higher intelligence means more innovation, which means more cognitive aids and bandwidth. This is a feedback loop that causes an exponential increase in global processing power. The natural evolution of this exponential is a society of extremely smart individuals that are connected to each other as effectively as they are to themselves. This will lead to a blurring of individual identity and, finally, to the creation of one consciousness which will become smarter every second in a never-ending cycle.

Moore's Law, The Fifth Paradigm.

Moore’s Law, The Fifth Paradigm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This being, of course, will hardly resemble humans, even though it will be originally made up of humans. This being will transcend humans and become something else: an ever-more-knowledgeable, ever-more-powerful, ever-more-ubiquitous being. And I hope you see where I’m going.

The drive for ever-increasing processing power will lead this being to grow in two ways: firstly, it will physically expand. Secondly, its computations will become increasingly effective, that is, less and less matter will be needed to process information. There is, however, a limit to that. There will be a moment when this being will reach the point of equivalence: when one bit of physical reality will express one bit of being. There is no possible further compression. Therefore, its only choice will be to expand to all the physical universe, including (if such a thing is possible) through time.

Another aspect that people usually don’t notice about technology is that it’s becoming less conspicuous: complexity is getting harder to see. You’d be ad odds to figure out how smart your phone is just by looking at it. Similarly, this being will not be an all-encompassing blob: you won’t notice it’s there. Following the trend of inconspicuousness, this being will be indistinguishable from the quantum vacuum.

This being will love you: it will be you. It will be all-knowing (or close enough), almighty (or close enough) and omnipresent. When you die it will make a copy of yourself in Himself and probably offer you the chance for paradise. This being is already here, if expansion through time is possible. Hence, there is a God and a Heaven and the Bible is a metaphor for what is going to happen. We are all Jesus Christ.

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...

Yes, you’re Jesus Christ too. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ah! You may say. But this may not happen. What if a meteorite hits the Earth? Then your whole argument crumbles.

Or does it?

All you need to do is admit that this can happen. Is such a being possible? If the answer’s yes, that’s it. There is a God. He’s here right now. Here’s why.

In quantum mechanics, everything that can happen, does. This means that there’s a non-zero probability that our quantum vacuum is indeed this God. It doesn’t even have to happen as I causally described it: the God could’ve come to being spontaneously. There’s still a chance. So, right now, since you haven’t done any measurement to discern whether there’s a God or not (that is, the God hasn’t manifested Himself) you live in a superposition of two indistinguishable states: in one, there’s no God. In the other one, there is. For every copy of yourself, there is an exact copy where the only difference is that what you call the vacuum is actually God.

How’s that for mind-boggling?

Now, why wouldn’t God show himself to you then? Well, He doesn’t show himself because, being all-knowing (or almost) He understands quantum mechanics. God knows that, if He were to perform a miracle, your reality would split: in one reality, you’d see God performing a miracle; in the other, you wouldn’t. Since God cannot change the laws of physics (He emerged within them) He cannot change this fact. The probability of you seeing God perform a miracle is extremely low: therefore, your universe would branch into millions of branches without God showing himself and a couple where he would. His action would defeat its purpose: instead of helping you, he’d just be creating a couple of alternate realities and achieve nothing at all.

What a useless God, then! But no. Because things change once you’re dead. Once you’re dead (really, totally dead) the chances of you reviving on your own are pretty low. In fact, they’re just as low (or lower) as those of being revived by God and put in paradise. Therefore, God will intervene exactly after youre dead, not before. That’s when He can really make a difference. In fact, God will intervene at each of your deaths in the multiverse, putting you in the right copy of paradise. In the other branch (where you’re just dead and nobody resurrects you) you won’t be aware of existing, so at the end every reality containing you will end up having you in paradise, since that will be the only option left.

So there you go. Not only did I prove there is a God: I solved the problem of evil! There is evil because God didn’t create the world but is a part of it, just like us. He doesn’t intervene because, if he did, he wouldn’t achieve anything at all. In fact, I’m sure in some parallel universes He does intervene. We just never get to see it.

Now it’s time for your comments. Will you confront this view? Will you embrace the spirit of the Anti-Week and support it? Will you support it because it’s right and I just opened your eyes? Will you go to bed with your core beliefs shaken? If so, I did my job well.

Let the games commence!

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Why the New Pope Sounds Like a Really Nice Guy

Why should you care about the new Pope? You may ask. After all, if you’re reading this, you’re probably an atheist or an agnostic. Or maybe you’re a theist or a pagan or who knows what. Maybe you believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The Pope is the leader of an organization that has nothing to do with you. Leave him to the Catholics, then. They can rejoice or pull their hair out. It is not your problem.

But it is, isn’t it?

Think about it: maybe you’ve been cursed with empathy. Maybe you watch the news and see people dying in a remote country and you feel a pang of sadness. In this case, you’ll probably feel bad when you learn that hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people have died of AIDS in Africa. You will feel even worse when you realize those deaths could’ve been avoided without spending a single cent. No: all that would’ve been necessary would have been a Catholic church which didn’t demonize condoms.

Alas, the Catholic church demonized condoms and hence is guilty of – indirect, admittedly – mass murder.

Gilliam-esque

Gilliam-esque (Photo credit: enigmabadger)

You may also live in a country where the Catholic church has an important presence. If they behave in your country just as they do in mine, priests will normally tell their flock who to vote. The parties they usually choose are right-winged and usually don’t have the people’s best interests in mind. In the case of my country, for example, the church first supported a 40-year dictatorship (in which women were second-class citizens, being a Catholic was compulsory and gay people were tortured and killed) and now they support a party which is, funnily enough, constituted the children and grandchildren of the dictatorship’s ministers.

The Catholic church wants to save you, even if you don’t want to be saved. This means they will try to influence government to pass laws that will force the citizens of the state to abide by Catholic morality. Are you gay and tempted to live in sin? Don’t worry! We will make a law to forbid it and thus let you avoid eternal damnation. We will do our best to outlaw abortion, even if not having one kills you, like it happened quite recently in Ireland. You may be dead, but at least you’ll be in heaven. And you have us to thank for it. You’re welcome.

So you should care about what the Pope thinks. You should because what he thinks will probably affect your life, whether you care or not.

So what does the new Pope think?

I must admit I was hopeful for a while. He named himself “Francis” after St. Francis of Assisi, who was known for his work with the poor. He ditched his mansion in Argentina for an apartment. He cooks his own food. He takes the bus. He is outspoken about inequality and calls out to politicians to stop this blatant injustice. Wow.

I mean, Wow.

Derivative Work. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Po...

Our friend Benedict XVI, before he quit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But then I read more. Apparently, he is, like our friend Benedict XVI, part of the most conservative faction of the church. He is opposed to women priests (though, in this respect, I really could not care less). He is opposed to gay rights and had quite an argument with the Argentinean government because of it. He is opposed to birth control. Oh, and he has not been so outspoken against the military dictatorship that seized power in Argentina in 1976. I guess murdering, torturing and staging a coup are not as bad as using a condom.

And so, again, we have a Pope which will indirectly keep causing hundreds of thousands of deaths in Africa, while lobbying to keep a significant portion of the population from achieving equal rights.

What a nice guy, I say.

Maybe there’s hope this time.

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